The great bane of the internet is that it’s so easy to fall into the trap of buying unnecessary devices, gadgets, and electronics. For this article, we want to list which gadgets automation-friendly homeowners are adding into their nest.
The information below takes into account gadgets which are available in Malta or are easy to get shipped to our island. To make our choice, we looked at reviews, articles, and expat forums (expats living in Malta). A couple of Maltese homeowners also chimed in with suggestions… particularly with number 3.
Find out what the majority are finding useful and helpful in their daily lives to help yourself stick to what’s important.
Amazon Echo Dot or Google Home
They’re speakers and they’re your assistants. Borrowing its namesake from the legendary library, Amazon’s voice control system Alexa allows you to simply ask (with your voice) for what you want.
The Alexa system knows a lot, but what it can’t answer outweighs what it can. If research is important for you, we’d recommend the Google Home instead which, as the name would suggest, has the google search engine embedded into its system.
What sets these two gadgets apart is that they actually make you feel like you’re in the future i.e. they actually understand what you’re saying and you won’t have to repeat the same instruction 10 times. You don’t even have to press any button, you just say the trigger word you settle on when setting it up (with Alexa, there’s four available) and ask for what you want. You can ask the assistant to dim or brighten your lights, connect to and control other smart devices, play music tracks, order items – and a lot more.
Worth knowing if you’re particularly tech-savvy: Recently, Amazon announced the Skill Blueprints portal as an option for people to build their own skills which they can then integrate into their Alexa.
Looking for a good comparison of the two? Take a look at this article by Erika Rawes.
Prices in Malta (at the time of writing):
Google Home: €140.00 – 150.00
Amazon Echo Dot (2nd generation): €130.00 – €140.00
Smart plugs allow you to control ordinary appliances, lighting, and other electronics from your smartphone. This relatively cheap item is all you need to transform the way you interact with a device. Using it is likewise simple: Plug your ‘smart plug’ (it may be more accurate to call them plug-in outlets) to a power socket, and then plug the device you want to automate into it.
Worth knowing if you’re particularly tech-savvy: Some smart plugs allow you to set up scenes. For example, you can have a device switch on or off depending on temperature or humidity; with higher-end smart plugs, you can also monitor a device’s energy consumption.
Prices in Malta (at the time of writing): €25 – €35
Robotic cleaner (Robot Vacuum)
Technology has permeated our lives with many promises, but none are sweeter than the promise of less domestic homework. Like most items that seem alien and magical, the robotic cleaner will usually look like a disk, and it travels around the house sucking dirt up from the floor. A €200 vacuum cleaner will do a great job and allow you to delay cleaning the house for a good number of days, but higher-end cleaners come with sophisticated smart navigation and the capacity to adapt how they clean to different surfaces, including carpets – save for the seasonal Maltese-style-cleaning-Armageddon, your floor’s not going to need you.
Prices in Malta (at the time of writing): €200 – €700
Along with adopting one of the voice assistants (be it google or amazon or others), getting a smart lighting system is a strong first step into the world of the smart home. Nowadays, you can obtain smart LED lights with many different fittings; moreover, you can also get LED strips, motion sensors, water resistant bulbs, and feature lights that attach to the wall like abstract art. You can control the lights via their app, wireless switches, or a voice assistant.
Prices in Malta (at the time of writing): €35 – €50
Smart Door Bell
The beach, the store, the office. Keep watch over who’s at your door wherever you are. Smart doorbells allow you to check who’s there with your smartphone or electronic device via WIFI. Doorbells equipped with motion sensors will notify you the second a guest arrives to the entrance of the door, and some will also allow you to lock or unlock the door from your phone. Think of yourself as Edna Mode from the Incredibles.
Prices in Malta (at the time of writing): €60 – €200